“They shot the children in each chair. I couldn’t watch it. When I grow up, I will destroy their world, I will destroy their children — I won’t let them be.” An unidentified child survivor of the massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Italics mine.)
It chilled me to the bone when I read these words in this article in the Huffington Post. I can wrap my head around a father talking this way, as much as I recoil at the thought of such an act; but when I realize that these words are coming out of the mouth of a child the impact of the horror is so much greater. It staggers my mind and tears at my heart.
This is where hate is born; and it is why blood feuds, jihad, and crusades continue generation after generation. No one would deny the need for the men who did this to be punished, least of all me. These men must be found and brought to justice; swiftly and publicly. But these words are not about justice, they are about revenge.
“I will destroy their children“—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The lure of revenge is strong, seductive even, and not without a certain level of justification. It seems only natural that the way to end the pain is to visit it upon the ones who caused it. I dare say that if I was in their shoes I would feel the same way myself. But it seldom works that way.
It has been said that every human weakness is a human virtue gone out of control. It starts as seeking justice for the victims, a good, proper and righteous act. But it seldom stops there. The quest for justice is wrapped in righteous indignation and morphs into vengeance. Vengeance unrequited quickly devolves into revenge, which is fuelled only by hate. This is because revenge cares not who pays the price as long as somebody does, and even then it is rarely enough. The hate continues long after the perpetrators are dead. The cycle continues.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)
This is hard—really hard. In fact, some would say it’s next to impossible; especially in this context. But there’s simply no other way to break out of the cycle of hate. For generation upon generation human beings have sought revenge to no good result. In these words Jesus shows us the way out. Now understand, he is by no means saying the guilty go unpunished. That is never the intention if this passage. But it must never go beyond seeking justice. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord and for good reason, we aren’t equipped to resist the lure of revenge. But to the one who burns with indignation Jesus words answer the question, “But what am I supposed to do?”
We must never return evil for evil, hate for hate, cursing for curses. It has never worked in all of human history and it never will. The solution is clear; battle evil with good, counter hate with love, return blessings for curses.
It is not easy, never has been. Not for me, or for you; nor will it be for the child who speaks of killing other children. My prayer for him/her and for all of us is that one day, when the physical wounds are healed, they and we will find the strength to turn aside from the way of hate and walk a better path.